The Conversation

The political calculations of amnesty

Marco Rubio has been losing a lot of his political capital over the Gang of Eight immigration bill.  Ann Coulter flat-out accused him of lying about the bill; I'm starting to wonder if he's even read the damn thing; and now we've got National Journal dismissing Rubio as a plain old garden-variety "career politician," which is arguably worse than Ann calling him a liar.  

It's already hard to remember the days when Rubio was the shooting star of the GOP, the man who could bring Tea Party enthusiasm together with Republican establishment money - and I write that with a heavy heart, as a Florida-dwelling Rubio constituent who howled like a football fan watching his team win the Super Bowl when my vote helped Rubio win that Senate seat.

Hopefully Rubio's star will rise again, but he's coming dangerously close to wearing that Gang of Eight bill like an anchor around his neck, pulling him straight down to Davey Jones' locker.  What was it all for?  Why did such a promising young GOP star throw so much of his support away pushing an amnesty bill?  (At this point, recovering his conservative support will require Rubio to come clean and admit that it is an amnesty bill.  That's Step One on the road to recovery.)

The GOP panicked after the election and convinced itself that survival required backing comprehensive immigration reform, to win some Hispanic votes.  But it was always clear - and, after a few more eye-opening polls, it should be painfully clear now - that Hispanic voters don't support Democrats because of amnesty, and they're not going to start supporting Republicans because they offer it.  Hispanic voters love Big Government, period, full stop, The End.  They agree with Democrat policies, and they don't seem terribly concerned about the resulting economic slowdown or impending fiscal ruin of Washington.  

Discovering the reasons for this support, and finding effective strategies for reaching to to Latino voters and selling them the Republican message, are worthy objectives.  But the immigration reform push wasn't going to replace such outreach, and I haven't seen any convincing evidence that it's a prerequisite for speaking to Hispanics about the virtues of economic liberty and personal responsibility.  Why should legal Latino immigrants be eager to give away the citizenship they worked so hard to earn?  Why should Latino voters be any more eager than other groups to flood Obama's weak job market with millions of new amnestied workers?  Why shouldn't they be as interested as the rest of us in securing both the border and every other aspect of immigration, such as our asylum laws, which have drawn public interest in the wake of the Boston bombings... and which the Gang of Eight bill makes worse?

Why shouldn't Republicans follow their principles and insist upon the rule of law, including proper application of our immigration laws?  PerhapsL some number of Hispanic voters might be turned off by this... but those people almost certainly were not going to vote Republican anyway.  On the other hand, voters from every demographic group who are interested in national security, the rule of law, and rational immigration policies should feel the GOP is their natural home.  Not only is enforcement of our immigration laws the right thing to do, it's also a winning political calculation for the Republicans - which is another way of saying that it's congruent with the expressed interests of the majority of voters.

There's no reason for Republicans to allow themselves to be caricatured as heartless xenophobes for insisting the immigration system be cleaned up without yet another amnesty giveaway... and also insisting that the political class speak honestly to a public it's been lying to for decades on this topic.  Let's drop all the tortured language, deceptive euphemisms, and unrealistic promises, and speak honestly about both the problem and its solution.  Marco Rubio could be extremely helpful for convincing Hispanic voters not to treat such a refreshing dose of honesty and common sense as racism, a message Democrats will very predictably try to sell them.


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